Practical Proverbial, from 1 Timothy, 20 February 2019

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.  1 Timothy 6:13-16 (NIV).

People don’t talk like this anymore.  Outside of formal liturgical services, people just don’t use this kind of language anymore, and that’s a shame.  There’s something good to be said from hearing someone formally bless you with the power of God.   Don’t get me wrong:   I like short sermons, and I like it when speakers get to the point.  Yet there’s also something grand, something spectacular, about hearing a speaker like Paul put a capstone on his work (this letter) by describing and invoking God’s action in majestic language.

Granted, Paul’s language in this closing doxology is “Pauly.”   He could be flowery.   He could be formal, and He could be the king of commas and compound sentences.  His rousing conclusion here is full of praise in ways that stand out from the rest of his fairly plainspoken letter to Timothy.  It’s almost as if he didn’t want to end stop talking.   These four verses are actually just two sentences and an ‘amen.’

He’s sending Timothy out into the world (into the ministry) to fight he good fight, to minister to the truly needy, and to stay true to the Lord.  Paul is telling his protégé to stay true to his calling from Jesus.  He focuses on Jesus in language that describes Him as the Savior King that He is, not just as a man or even a great man.   This Jesus isn’t the meek and mild:   he’s mighty.  Paul focuses on Jesus as the true God, the phenomenal cosmic power God who rules over all.

“Stay true to Him, Timothy.   He’s everything and more.”

People don’t talk like that anymore.   Indeed, my simple words seem insufficient compared to what Paul handed down to us.   Yet, in the sight of God (because He is God), the same mighty Jesus speaks mildly to our individual hearts when He leads us as He will.  He did it for Paul; he did it for Timothy; He’s doing it for you and me today.

For further reading:   John 8:33-37, 2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Corinthians 1:7, Titus 1:3, Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalm 136:3, Daniel 2:47, Revelation 1:5, Luke 10:7, 1 Timothy 6:13.

Magnificent Lord, all thanks and praise be to You.   Thank You for making Yourself known to us in so many ways.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Thessalonians, 9 January 2018

Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.  1 Thessalonians 1:1.

A few more words, please, about the opening to this letter.   Notice that it speaks for three people:   Paul, Silas, and Timothy (as does the opening to 2 Thessalonians).  As mentioned yesterday, all of Paul’s letters open with a flourish, and all of them open by naming (at least) the apostle.  Romans opens with Paul only (as do Ephesians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus), Paul and Sosthenes open 1 Corinthians, Paul and Timothy in 2 Corinthians (also Philippians, Colossians and Philemon), and Paul and “all the brothers with me” begin Galatians.

What does this mean?  To me, it speaks of the honesty of a growing movement.   Put yourself back in the First Century Mediterranean world dominated by Rome.  It was a barbaric culture spread across three continents.  Paul wrote many of his letters to churches in modern day Turkey (Corinth, Galatia, Colosse, and Ephesus are there) while Timothy was from that same area.   Philippi and Thessolonica are in Greece (with Thessalonica actually being in Macedonia), and it is believed Philemon was from Colosse.   All these churches grew out of Paul’s missionary efforts that began on the road to Damascas (in modern day Syria).   If you look at a map you see that Paul’s missionary journeys took him north from the Transjordan, around the Mediterranean coast, and even as far west as Rome (where he was eventually martyred).   That’s a distance of hundreds, even thousands, of miles:   all of it by foot, wagon or boat.

That doesn’t happen without reason.

All along the way, people listened.   Many listened, some rejected, but others believed.   Enough people believed to start churches, formal underground groups of followers committed to this new message of Jesus Christ, Himself only recently crucified.   The movement grew in spite of Roman physical oppression and Jewish ecclesiastical persecution.   It grew across languages, cultures, and boundaries.   Indeed, the three men who wrote just this letter were all from vastly different backgrounds with Paul being Judean, Silas a Greek, and Timothy from what we consider to be Turkey.

Again, that doesn’t happen by chance.   The fact that three men from different countries could come together to evangelize a radical new belief system that preached real non-violence, peace, and love towards enemies speaks volumes.   Even with 24/7 global communications, that rarely happens even today.   Yet that’s what happened in Paul’s day, in Paul’s life.   Before now, maybe you didn’t consider the implications of a simple though eccentric greeting in an obscure letter.   Hopefully after this, you’ll never forget it.

For further reading:  Read the first verses of the first chapters of Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon.

Lord, thank You for the spectacular nature of Your church and the diverse leaders who started it.